Lean Manufacturing and Management

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Manufacturing companies in the United States have continuously been looking for effective approaches and strategies which would facilitate a reduction in expenditure and at the same time enhance productivity thereby enabling them to ascertain a superior position in comparison to their competitors, with an escalation in the market share. The initial methods of production which were common before the Second World War laid undue emphasis on the processes employed for production to yield huge amounts of supply, which greatly contrasted with an absolute shift in focus after the war when a totally different result-oriented approach was engaged with a greater emphasis on the productivity. This approach is widely used in the modern-day business establishments of the world.

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Following the Second World War, Japanese production companies were facing a dearth of raw materials, human labor, and simultaneous monetary capital and it was the result of these circumstances which prompted them to build novel methods and production techniques that involved reduced capital. It was with this objective of reducing the utilization of supplies which yield no profits to the company, that the former leaders of Japan (Eiji Toyoda of the Toyota Motor Company), Ohno Taiichi and Shigeo Shingo created the ‘Toyota Production System’ or ‘Lean Manufacture’, a closely controlled system of production which lays great stress on the employment of the process with the firm resolve of adding value and worth by eliminating all the possible wastes of the company.

This theory of ‘lean manufacturing’ gained immense popularity in the American factories basically due to the ‘Massachusetts Institute of Technology’ which initiated a discussion of the significant performance gap between Western and Japanese automotive companies, and undertook an in-depth study of the movement from mass production in contrast to the production as illustrated in ‘The Machine That Changed the World’, (Womack, Jones & Roos, 1990), explaining the crucial elements responsible for enhanced performance due to lean manufacturing.

The expression ‘lean’ was used because the Japanese employed techniques in business with the minimum utilization of human labor and effort, financial capital, ground space, resources, raw materials, and minimum utility of time in all the phases of production, consequently enabling them to successfully compete with the United States since the past twenty-five years. Their apparent success in this competition instigated the U.S. production companies to study and implement their doctrines in all their industrialized businesses.

Lean Manufacturing can thus be defined as ‘A systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste (non-value-added activities) through continuous improvement by flowing the product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection.’ (Principles and Practices of Lean Manufacturing Hall, Arlie (1995) University of Kentucky).

The term ‘Value’ is of significance in ‘lean production for the reason that the customer is the sole entity in defining the value of a product that should particularly meet both the temporal and the cost-effective needs of the customer. The removal of the activities which impart no value to the profitability of a production unit holds the maximum potential for the improvement of performance in the corporate sector as well as the customer services department of most companies. When these doctrines of improvement are constantly followed with devotion by the manufacturers they have the potential to result in amazing progress in the performances of companies that are hard to accomplish by their rivals.

The process of lean manufacturing is one that is beneficial not only to one particular company or unit or sector but applies as a whole to the entire nation or economy as the reduced use of resources in manufacturing companies will eventually lead to the reserves being washed away with lesser speed and will result in lesser concerns at the environmental level as well. If the principle of lean production is appropriately applied to an organization it enhances its capability to learn and eventually make fewer or no mistakes because the recurrence of mistakes is actually believed to be a form of waste in lean manufacture, the philosophy of which seeks to the ultimate elimination of the same.

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By doing so the lean philosophy aims to emphasize more on the needs of the customer by ascertaining customer participation and response in order to guarantee excellence and client contentment which eventually augments sales. ‘Perfection’ is an important principle in lean production which actually denotes the numerous prospects for the improvement of the utility of all the varieties of resources. The pursuit of perfection is an aspiration that aids to maintain continuous alertness practices which are economically and environmentally wasteful and consequently unprofitable to the company and in turn to the atmosphere.

There exist several types of tools for lean Manufacturing which include: Good Management technique, Operational Planning, Value Chain Mapping, 5 ‘S’ System, Visual Factory Management techniques, Product Redesign, Quality Function Deployment, Process Definition, and Redesign, Systematic Data-Based Problem Solving, Deductive Problem Solving, Statistical Process Control, Just In Time, Kanban, Poka Yoke, Organizational Mission Analysis, Constraint Analysis and Removal, Capacity Utilization Analysis and Improvement, and literally countless potential improvement methods. (Goldratt, Eliyahu M. (1995))

Lean manufacturing involves the creation of goods employing a minimum of everything in comparison to conventional mass fabrication such as less waste, human effort, manufacturing space, investment in tools, inventory, and engineering time in order to develop a new product. Lean manufacturing is a general process management philosophy resulting by and large from the ‘War Manpower Commission’ which led to the ‘Toyota Production System’ (TPS) (Womack, James P., Jones, Daniel T., and Roos, Daniel (1991), The Machine That Changed the World). It is famous for its decrease of the initial ‘seven wastes’ of Toyota who had the basic intention of the general improvement of the consumer worth and additional inclusion of some important novel approach on the methods employed to achieve this purpose.

Lean is frequently associated with ‘Six Sigma’ because of the use of the method to decrease the developmental variation (or its converse smoothness) and the combined treatment of Toyota along with the TPS. The stable development of Toyota, as a significant and the largest car company in the world from merely being an undersized player, has invited global curiosity as to how this has been achievable, consequently projecting ‘Lean’ as a major subject in management science in the initial years of the 21st century.

Lean is generally identified as the set of TPS ‘tools’ helping in the detection and simultaneous stable removal of waste, thereby not only enhancing quality but also lessening the time and cost of production. Lean Manufacturing has numerous ‘tools’ such as ‘continuous process improvement’ or the ‘kaizen’,Kaikaku’, ‘the 5 Whys’ and the ‘mistake-proofing or the ‘poka-yoke’ which it can effectively put to use in order to solve the problem of waste. Kaizen in Japanese stands for the incessant enhancement and is a major constituent of Lean production for economic purposes as also for social and environmental purposes.

This practice is a primary means of implementing other Lean methods, ranging from the 5Ss to much more complex Lean construction tools. After the analysis of the current status, Kaizen is useful for continuous improvement by using a delivery process mapping method (Lapinski et al., 2005). Kaizen provided the basis for a total process approach to sustainable project development that was used at the South Campus Office Building project in Torrance, CA (Horman et al., 2004). Kaizen plays a key role in improving the current status of sustainable construction. All sustainable indicators may be improved through Kaizen.

Another potential tool for sustainable perfection is Kaikaku. Kaikaku (Kaizen events), which means a rapid process of improvement, is a team activity designed to eliminate waste and make rapid changes for product and process improvement in the workplace. This strategy is employed to get workers with multiple organizational functions on different levels to unite in improving processes and addressing problems. When implementing chosen improvements, the team rapidly employs inexpensive solutions usually within three days.

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It is possible for opportunities rapidly to be created by changing the process. Kaikaku can create reduced pollution and material waste. Environmental Health and Safety staff can also participate in Kaizen events due to the possibility of non-compliance and exposure of workers to hazards. Suggestions may be made by EHS staff to facilitate the process (US EPA, 2006).

In similar ways, it can be seen as taking a very similar approach to other improvement methodologies. Another approach which ‘Lean Manufacturing’ employs is the emphasis on improving the ‘flow’ or the efficiency of work and not by the reduction of waste and it is this methodology that is utilized by Toyota.

According to the architect of the Toyota Production System, Taichi Ohno, waste implies any action which utilizes resources but is unable to generate worth exemplars of which include the production of, faulty goods, excess or residual goods, the use of procedures or methods which do not in any way enhance the profitability of the goods or products, the motion of a product or even an employee which does not yield much profit and the act of waiting due to delay in the delivery of input ( Womack and Jones, 1996).

The fundamentals of such a system are the elimination of these seven types of wastes thereby aiming for a minimum inventory and the constant practice of incessant work in order to augment the production levels. The basic principle of evaluation of waste in the field of business in turn helps greatly in the reduction of pollution consequently enhancing the business not only in terms of profitability but also efficiency. This process, if followed by each industry will, in turn, will begin to show positive effects on the economy of the entire country as a whole because the success of a nation is greatly dependent on the entire gamut of various industries and their respective successes and failures.

Since waste plays an important role in environmental pollution, two goals can be achieved by following a single model of work. Lean production involves decreasing barriers through the ‘Justin-Time’ supply method, by manufacturing no more than what is desired by consumers (inside or outside the system).

This methodology also involves the passing down of duties for the scrutiny of quality, the motivation of specific tasks, and the association of multi-skilled workers into proper groups thereby educing a regular flow of ideas for the enhancement of methods from the workforce, at all levels. In this way, this process proceeds down the line and at the same time has the potential of development of the slow and steady rise of the economy of the country.

According to Ohno each and every particle which comes into a production facility must exit it as a constituent of a creation that is fit to be sold for a price (Graedel and Allenby, 1995, p.186). The scheme of evaluating waste in the business segment not only makes the businesses more effective and proficient but also reduces pollution and these outcomes positively affect the entire industrial sector as they do to individual businesses. Waste can therefore be categorized into two groups, ‘pollution’ which refers to the discarded materials released into the atmosphere or environment, and ‘unnecessary production effort’ which is the wasted attempts of beings.

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Henry Ford of the Ford group continuously emphasizes on reduction of waste in the process of building up his mass assembly fabrication system and by doing so has been successful in emitting a constant escalation in terms of quality, finances, mechanism, and technology leaving not only his country but almost the entire world in a state of shock. (Charles Buxton Going, preface to Arnold and Faurote, Ford Methods and the Ford Shops (1915)).

The chief aim of Lean Manufacturing is the removal of waste in all areas involving manufacturing, consumer associations, the design of products, dealer set-ups, and administration of the factory as a whole with the primary goal being to integrate minimum human effort, with a reduction of stock, a reduced amount of time to develop goods, and a reduction of space in order to be more receptive to consumer requirement whilst fabricating products of the highest quality by applying the most proficient and cost-effective approach probable. Basically, ‘waste’ refers to anything that the customer is unwilling to pay money for.

Human resource is the most significant of all the resources that could be made accessible for any lean association being the solitary resource possessing the ability of not only feeling but also sensing thereby enabling the all-important action of conscious decision making. Respect for people structures a primary pillar of lean which regrettably is also the most commonly wasted resource, the occurrence of which is the basic cause of damage to any organization.

A majority of the organizations following the lean approach are successful not because of the tools or software that they put to use but because of the simple reason that they have devised approaches to bring out the best from the human resources that they possess. Correct guidance and leadership in lean philosophy can work wonders in producing amazing results for the company. The emphasis in such a theory is on the motivation factor as de-motivation is the worst enemy of any unit.

Motivation coupled with respect for the employees enables them to exploit the maximum potential thus yielding great dividends for the company. Respect is shown not only by way of addressing a person but the power to make crucial decisions because with great power there will be greater responsibility to achieve the best results. Higher the respect for people, higher the output from them and it is for the same reason that today Google is the best internet company to work for in the U.S., not because of the hefty pay packet they offer to their employees but the tremendous respect they show towards people and use them efficiently.

Not only does lean aspire to mobilize and yield profitability by enhancing the human resources it also additionally initiates key principles to create a functional and intellectual atmosphere, one that is extremely beneficial to waste reduction and prevention of pollution.

Important ecological paybacks are additionally achieved due to the practices involving lean programs. The dominant financial and rivalry forces at the rear of lean, compel an eagerness to commence significant procedural and literary transformations, several of which have imperative environmental achieving repercussions as lean characteristically recommends the minimum utility of raw materials and a reduction in water and power along with condensed quantity and total of chemicals used thereby producing reduced scrap thereby improving the environment to a very great extent.

Lean presently generates environmental profits by instituting a complete and constant waste removal tradition subsequently tackling the hazard to the environment.

This provides the environmental organizations with potential prospects to team up with lean advocates to promote the progress of the environmental benefits connected with lean since both lean and the environmentalists work towards a similar goal of striving to eliminate wastes, one from the environment and the other from the business.

A majority of lean techniques have successfully provided not only affirmative economic impacts for continual services and at the same time confirming numerous positive impacts on social and environmental aspects as well. Thus we see that the Lean attitude offers a solid basis not only for economic, but also social, and environmental functions by enhancing all the processes which are crucial to any production unit or office.

By analyzing the economic perspective, there is substantial potential in the decline of upfront expenditure which directly results in financial savings and reserves. This leads to an additional reduction in the cost of several operations and thus the unit displays the potential of high performance with greater profitability margins.

An analysis of the social perspective reveals that in the approach of lean manufacturing there is a subsistence of superior safety at the place of work safety due to the morals and ethics of le. There will be general well-being in the health of the staff which directly results in the improvement of their mental state of contentment due to the respect, responsibility, and motivation that they receive from their company staff. This naturally has the potential of resulting in the wellbeing of the entire community as every good action potentially provides an equal and opposite good reaction. Obviously, all the positive feedback and news will increase the loyalty of the stakeholders towards the company which in turn will upgrade the external image of the company.

From an environmental perspective, there is a huge potential for reduction in the depletion of resources which will also directly control the menace of pollution, which is now a crucial problem facing the entire world. The ideology of elimination of wastes will also greatly help in the preservation of natural resources as lean practices only advocate the use of essentials in the process of any kind of production.


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